This Week in Amateur Radio
This Week in Amateur Radio: North America's Amateur Radio News Magazine. Articles on amateur radio and news stories in the media featured here.
Updated: 2 hours 48 min ago
User reports have been favorable in the wake of the release of another new beta version of the FT4 protocol by the WSJT-X Developoment Group this week. WSJT-X 2.1.0-rc7, which is now available for testing, is not compatible with any previous FT4 releases. A short mock contest session to wring out the contesting features of FT4 took place on June 4. "Thanks to all who participated in yesterday's FT4 mock-contest practice session — and especially to those who provided useful feedback. It is much appreciated!" said developer Joe Taylor, K1JT. "Everyone likes the 7.5-second T/R sequences, which provide operators with significantly more human interaction time than in previous revisions of FT4. Users also appreciated the sensitivity improvements and a larger range of acceptable time offsets (DT)." DT represents the combined clock difference for the transmitting and receiving computers, he explained.
Mexican radio amateurs have been providing communication support from a fire scene in a remote area to civil protection authorities in Monterrey, Mexico. Two-member teams of volunteers have been flown in via helicopter since May 20, the first day of radio support, when the fire had already been burning for a couple of days. The fire in Pajonal — about 20 kilometers south of Monterrey — covered more than 200 acres in rough terrain. Temperatures have topped 100 °F. Fueled by hot and dry conditions, Mexico’s 2019 fire season has been intense, leading to poor air quality. As of mid-May, more than 100 wildfires were active in 17 Mexican states.
With Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials monitoring, dozens of radio amateurs along the US east coast on May 23 demonstrated Amateur Radio’s ability to deliver messages without commercial power, infrastructure, or permanently established stations. The event took place in coordination with ARRL. The demonstration was a mock response to a simulated disaster scenario — a major hurricane with mass casualties. During the event, radio amateurs at portable stations from New England to the Carolinas delivered message traffic to W1AW, which coordinated and delivered the information to officials attending a joint Red Cross-FEMA meeting in Baltimore. “About a dozen stations participated in the demonstration, including operators in Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, northern New Jersey, western Pennsylvania, Delaware, and South Carolina,” ARRL Communications Manager Dave Isgur, N1RSN, said. “Red Cross officials were on-site at W1AW and at the receiving station in Baltimore. At both sites, they indicated that were impressed with Amateur Radio’s ability to deliver messages digitally so that could be displayed on a computer screen and in a format that matched the format for messages that the Red Cross uses.” Isgur said ABC, CBS, and Fox TV affiliates sent reporting teams to W1AW.
A State of Emergency has been issued in the City of Trotwood due to severe damage of storms and suspected tornadoes hit the area Monday night. Hara Arena suffered extensive damage when tornadoes and severe storms moved through Monday night. Drone footage shows the roof and side of the structure blown off in several places. Trotwood schools are closed, and several homes and businesses have been severely damaged.
June 6 will mark the 75th anniversary of Operation Overlord during World War II and the D-Day landings in Normandy. To commemorate those who took part, a small team from the Torbay Amateur Radio Society (TARS) in England is organizing a chain of five special event stations along the UK’s southern coastline. Each will be based in the geographical area of a beach-landing force point of departure and will use a relevant call sign. TARS will activate a site above Brixham Harbour in Devon — a departure point for many US soldiers who later landed on Utah Beach and will use the call sign GB75UF. Other clubs activating similar relevant locations will use these call signs: GB75OF — Omaha Beach, South Dorset Radio Society; GB75GF — Gold Beach, Southampton ARC and Soton University Wireless Society; GB75JF — Juno Beach, Itchen Valley ARC and Waterside New Forest ARC, and GB75SF — Sword Beach, Fort Purbrook ARC.
WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio station at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, will conduct its annual station test on Saturday, June 1, the first day of hurricane season. WX4NHC will operate from 1300 to 2100 UTC. “This will be our 39th year of public service at NHC,” said WX4NHC Amateur Radio Assistant Coordinator Julio Ripoll, WD4R. The event is aimed at testing Amateur Radio equipment, antennas, and computers for the 2019 Hurricane Season, which runs through November 30. “This event is good practice for ham radio operators worldwide, as well as National Weather Service (NWS) staff, to become familiar with Amateur Radio communications available during times of severe weather,” Ripoll said. “We will be making brief contacts on many frequencies and modes, exchanging signal reports and basic weather data (‘sunny,’ ‘rainy,’ etc.) with any station in any location.”
The Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) has announced a Cricket World Cup Amateur Radio Marathon, from May 30 until July 14. The Cricket World Cup will take place in England and Wales. UK and international call signs will be active on nine HF bands on SSB, CW, and digital modes. Award certificates will be offered based on the number of contacts made with the special UK and international stations. Sponsors are inviting other countries to take part and to activate special call signs with the suffix “19CWC” or similar. A total of 31 special call signs will be on the air in the UK, with GB19CWC representing the 2019 Cricket World Cup Headquarters in England. Listen for other “GB19” prefix call signs. Teams will field special event stations as well. Details, including the rules for awards and a list of international call signs, are on the RSGB website. Follow your progress on the Ham Log website. Email for more information on the marathon. — Thanks to Nick Totterdell, G4FAL
The Board of Directors of an antenna-restricted community in Arizona voted overwhelmingly in April to allow radio amateurs to erect certain outdoor antennas on their properties. Some 75 hams live in the 10,000-home Sun City Grand, a self-contained residential community for older adults. An article in the Grand Ham Newsletter by Gordon Bousman, NW7D, called it “a big win” and said the Sun City Grand community homeowners’ association (HOA) is believed to be the largest in the US to permit Amateur Radio antennas. The HOA board includes one radio amateur. The new antenna guidelines went into effect on May 9. “The road to success took nearly a year of meetings, negotiations, and occasional setbacks driven by a team of dedicated amateurs who were persistent in reaching our goals,” Bousman said in his article. “While our initial discussion points focused on the possibility of passage of the [Amateur Radio] Parity Act, we later shifted our focus to the value that Amateur Radio operators can bring to the community in the event of an emergency or crisis.”
An erroneous report this week suggested that the FCC planned to again impose an Amateur Radio vanity call sign application (regulatory) fee of $70 for the 10-year term. This incorrect conclusion resulted from an incomplete reading of the May 7 FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the matter of the assessment and collection of regulatory fees for fiscal year 2019. Although the Schedule of Regulatory Fees does show a $7 annual fee for Amateur Radio vanity call signs, a boldface heading in that section of the NPRM states, “REGULATORY FEES. This section is no longer in effect as it has been amended by RAY BAUM’S Act of 2018...” Section 9(e)(2) of RAY BAUM’S Act gives the Commission discretion to exempt a party from paying regulatory fees when the FCC determines that the cost of collection exceeds the amount collected. A new section 9(e)(1) incorporated the Amateur Radio vanity fee exemption from FCC rules into the statute. The NPRM makes clear in several other places that regulatory fees no longer apply to Amateur Radio licenses. The FCC eliminated the regulatory fee for Amateur Radio vanity call signs in 2015.
Hack long enough and hard enough, and it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll eventually cause unintentional RF emissions. Most of us will likely have our regulatory transgression go unnoticed. But for one unlucky hacker in Ohio, a simple project ended up with a knock at the door by local authorities and pointed questions to determine why key fobs and garage door remotes in his neighborhood and beyond had suddenly been rendered useless, and why his house seemed to be at the center of the disturbance. Few of us want this level of scrutiny for our projects, so let’s take a more in-depth look at the Great Ohio Key Fob Mystery, along with a look at the Federal Communications Commission regulations that govern what you can and cannot do on the airwaves. As it turns out, it’s easy to break the law, and it’s easy to get caught.
The Atlanta Hamfest, set for June 1 in Marietta, Georgia, has been cancelled, according to the Hamfest Committee of the Atlanta Radio Club and the Kennehoochee Amateur Radio Club. “It’s every event organizer’s worst nightmare to have to cancel an event for things other than weather, and this was not done lightly,” said Atlanta Hamfest Chair John Talipsky, N3ACK. The Atlanta Hamfest is also the ARRL Georgia Section Convention. “Due to ongoing issues that we have not been able to satisfactorily address at this time, related to our return to the newly renovated facility, it was decided in the best interests of attendees and vendors alike to cancel this year’s show.” The Hamfest was planning to return to Jim R Miller Park, its home since 2001, after a year away due to remodeling. Talipsky said the team made the tough decision to cancel, because it “did not feel the goal of a fun, quality event was on track.” He said the Atlanta Hamfest team is turning its efforts toward the 2020 event, planned for Saturday, June 6, at Jim R. Miller Park. “We apologize to our vendors, presenters, and attendees for any inconvenience this may cause,” he added. Information on the 2020 Atlanta Hamfest will be available on the Hamfest website.
Both grizzled hams and potential future amateur radio operators are well-served by the market these days. Powerful and capable UHF and VHF handheld transceivers can now be had for well under $100, something unimaginable as recently as 20 years ago. Of course, a major part of the amateur radio scene used to be Morse code. Not to worry though, you can do that with a handheld, too!The setup is simple but effective. A Morse code training unit generates tones in response to input from a Morse keyer. This audio is passed into the headset port of a Baofeng handheld transmitter. A toggle switch is wired up to the Push-To-Transmit circuit of the Baofeng to trigger transmission when required. It’s a little different from the more typical constant-wave transmission methods that are so seldom used nowadays, but it gets the job done. Morse code has always been appreciated in situations where voice transmission is difficult due to low bandwidth or interference, and now it’s easy for new hams to give it a try.
Mount Athos' best-known radio amateur, Monk Apollo, SV2ASP, died on May 5 after complications resulting from cancer. He was 64. Monk Apollo was essentially the lone DX voice from Mount Athos, the 20th most-wanted DXCC entity, where he operated from his Orthodox Monastery of Docheiariou. Born into a large family in western Greece, he became a monk in 1973, eventually joining the ascetic monastery on Mount Athos in 1980. When the need for reliable communication from the monastery surfaced in the 1980s, Monk Apollo followed a recommendation to become a radio amateur, which he did in 1988. He had to wait for permission from the Holy Council to operate, however, before he was able to get on the air for the first time in 1990. He celebrated his 10th anniversary on the air with the special call sign SY2A.
Dayton Hamvention® will provide an Information Radio Station at 1620 kHz on the AM band to help ease the trip for inbound attendees. The low-power station will offer traffic, weather, parking, and event information to motorists as they approach Xenia, which is bracing to handle an influx of nearly 30,000 visitors — roughly doubling the city’s population for the weekend. Hamvention will host ARRL’s 2019 National Convention. Due to the web of two-lane roads that serves the Greene County Fairgrounds and Expo Center, a shuttle-bus operation will be in place to alleviate traffic congestion. The 1620 AM signal will blanket Xenia and be audible in surrounding Greene and Montgomery
Dayton Hamvention® 2019, host of the ARRL National Convention, will mark the debut of a free mobile event app to help attendees navigate the extensive Hamvention program, activities, and exhibits using their smartphones or tablets. A collaborative effort between ARRL and Dayton Hamvention, the app was developed by TripBuilder Media™. ARRL Convention and Event Coordinator Eric Casey, KC2ERC, has been readying the app, with content contributions from Dayton Hamvention Com
The National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting, located at the site of the former Voice of America Bethany Relay Station in West Chester, Ohio (between Dayton and Cincinnati, off the I-75 Tylersville Road exit), will expand its hours during Hamvention 2019 weekend. The WC8VOA station will be open. The museum includes a comprehensive collection of Drake Amateur Radio gear. Extended hours for Hamvention attendees will be Thursday and Friday, May 16 and 17, 4 – 9 PM; Saturday, May 18,1 – 9 PM, and Sunday, May 19, 1 – 5 PM. More information is on the VOA Museum website.
ARRL Field Day is June 22 – 23. See the May issue of QST, page 85, for the Field Day announcement. The Field Day site locator is now up and running, and so far more than 430 sites already are in the database. To find a Field Day site near you, enter your town and state in the “Location or Call Sign” box at the upper left. Listings also are available by state or Canadian province.To add a site, visit the Add Field Day Station page. Information on promoting Field Day is available. Also, visit the Field Day social media page for information on promoting your Field Day operation via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
It was a hobby that didn’t get old. On weekends, Dave and Ethan Mortensen (KD0LYA & KD0IOL according to QRZ.com respectively) of Cedar Rapids would seek out a spot near railroad tracks where they could watch trains pass. “Ethan would watch trains, and my dad would read books,” older brother Jacob Mortsensen said. “He could watch trains for hours.” Ethan, 32, had a developmental disorder, but was becoming increasingly independent, Jacob said. He moved out of his father’s house and was learning to drive. Authorities believe the father and son were watching trains and practicing driving April 14, when their SUV ended up on the tracks. It was struck by a train traveling around 60 mph. The crash killed them both. “It’s a very tragic accident,” Cedar Rapids police spokesman Greg Buelow said. Buelow said an investigation determined Ethan’s inexperience as a driver was likely a factor in the crash, but police may never know exactly what caused him to lose control of the vehicle.
Kolkata: West Bengal Radio Club (WBRC), an organisation of ham radio enthusiasts in the state, helped to reunite two Bihar residents —a nonagenarian man and an elderly woman— with their families on Monday. These two elderly persons went missing after they got estranged from their respective groups at Gangasagar Mela.
The Army Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) will host the traditional military/Amateur Radio communication tests to mark the 68th annual Armed Forces Day (AFD) on Saturday, May 11. The event is open to all radio amateurs. Armed Forces Day is May 18, but the AFD Crossband Military-Amateur Radio event traditionally takes place 1 week earlier in order to avoid conflicting with Hamvention®. Complete information, including military stations, modes, and frequencies, is available on the US Army MARS website. “For more than 50 years, military and amateur stations have taken part in this event, which is only an exercise scenario, designed to include hobbyist and government radio operators alike,” the event announcement said. “The AFD Crossband Test is a unique opportunity to test two-way communications between military communicators and radio stations in the Amateur Radio Service, as authorized in 47 CFR 97.111. These tests provide opportunities and challenges for radio operators to demonstrate individual technical skills in a tightly-controlled exercise scenario that does not impact any public or private communications.”